Donald D. Smythe, Professor of Geology
Peiyang University, Dept. of Geology,
December 7, 1923
Things have finally straightened out till I know where I am. The teaching is progressing and I have heard, indirectly, that the students like me which is more important here than in the States.
In the Freshman class I have two lectures a week and no lab, about 50 students.
In Minerology (Blowpiping and Crystallography) I have 13 students eight hours (lec. & lab) a week.
In Economic Geology I have 7 students two lectures a week.
In Historical Geology I have 13 students three lectures a week.
In Petrography I have 16 students four hours lect and lab a week. A total of twenty hours, next term I have 22 hours, as I teach engineering geology too.
The students understand English pretty well but you have to talk slowly. It is almost impossible to get them to recite or say what they think, If you ask a question, regardless of what it is they will answer in the affimative. Then if you ask it in the opposite way they will also answer affirmative so you don't know what they think. Occasionally you find one who can think independantly but that is seldom the case. They are very hard to lecture as you can't tell whether they understand or are interested or not.
The social life here is rather advanced over what you have known. Tea parties, formal dinners etc. I had to get a tuxedo made and you will need to bring several evening dresses when you come. All the meals are served in courses and quite formally, we will need to get considerable more silver to be fitted. I think we will need the following
12 - Dinner knives and forks.
12 - Soup spoons.
12 - Dessert spoons.
12 - Dessert forks.
12 - butter spreaders.
12 - Fish knives and forks
12 - salad forks if the above do not serve
12 or more tea spoons.
Serving silver (ladles or forks) for fish, meat, vegetables, dessert, pie etc.
In other words a complete service for serving twelve people, as we will have a lot of entertaining to do. The china ware, wine glasses etc we can get here but the silver ware you will have to bring with you since it is expensive here. Table linen is also expensive here. There is no chance of getting out of it. The cooking and house cleaning you won't bother with, we will have a cook who can European food, a No. 1 boy who serves as butler, a coolie who does the work and an Amah (woman) who will do your serving, we may have to get a wash-boy if my present No. 1 won't do it. Without the wash boy the total payroll will amount to about $45 Mex for the three men and a woman. They furnish their own food.
Food is not expensive. Our food will probably cost us about $75 Mex a month. The buying is done by the cook, you don't even have to tell him the menus as he will furnish a good variety.
I have my own house now, nine rooms for us besides an outside kitchen and servants quarters. Furniture we have to buy, also coal and pay for electric lights. Coal comes to $13.50 to $17.00 Mex per ton anthracite and about $8.00 Mex for soft coal. House is heated by stoves. Hope to get a smaller house, now occupied, before you come.
We are five miles from the concessions where we do most of our shopping. The only means of travel is by rickshaw to and then by very dirty street car or all the way by rickshaw. Rickshaw to Pei-ta-kuan is 20 cents and 6 cents copper (1 1/2 cts U.S.) by tram. If you take a rickshaw all the way and keep the man all afternoon you pay him $1.00 Mex for the round trip. A good runner takes 45 minutes for the five miles. If you meet a funeral in a narrow street though it may take several hours.
Money here is a mess, I am paid in taels which I convert in Mex. dollars, the exchange varying. A silver dollar is "big money" there are two kinds of silver "small money" one with the head of Yuan Shi Kai and others. A silver dollar is worth about 200 copper cents, or 5-20 cent pieces Yuan Shi Kai and 8 coppers or 5-20 cent pieces 1-10 cent piece and 10 coppers of other small money. The relative values vary from day to day. The banks issue paper tael and dollar notes and there are 10-20-40-50 cent copper notes. The Bank notes are ok but the paper varies. Thus there are
about 200 copper coins = 1 silver dollar
about 18 copper coins = 20 cents YSK silver
about 16 copper coins = 20 cents other silver
about 8 copper coins = 10 cents paper
You may get your change in a mixture of the lot and so have to figure it out.
The dollar mex, silver dollar or big money, is the size of a silver dollar and may be a Mex. peso, a Yuan shi kai dollar, a Hong Kong dollar or one of various native Chinese Provincial issues. Lots of them are counterfeit so you have to test the ring or sound of each. When you come on the boat don't get your money changed till you get off except for a few dollars and make them give you bank notes on Shanghai or silver dollars, I got ten dollars changed and they gave me ten dollars in small money or 50-20 cent pieces, thus cheating me of ten dimes and 100 coppers. Also you must watch a bank note. A Shanghai note is at a discount in Peking and a Tientsin note in Shanghai. They may be issued by the same bank through its different branches but that does not matter. I must see that all bank notes given me are payable in Tientsin when I am here and in Shanghai while I am there.
I like the country here pretty well and I think you will. I think you can plan on coming as soon as I accumulate the money and have the house furnished, and the silver ware paid for. I expect to furnish the house gradually but it takes a lot any how. I now have, a wash table, a bed and mattress, chest of drawers, and desk, besides stoves, chairs, tables and a lot of small things.
Three of us are eating together in a mess. Two bachelors and myself. We live very well and it costs us about $50 per mo. each which includes share of cooks pay, and fuel, we have one chinese meal a week which we eat with chopsticks. Have gotten so that I don't mind ancient eggs (they are a dark brown color and bad oder) and shark's fin etc.
I have a job keeping up the social end. Today I go to a tea party and dance (but not I) at five, tomorrow a formal Ma Jong party and supper at nine, and a Chinese Tiffin (lunch) at 1 pm Sunday. Can't very well stay out as there are so few that if one stayed away, he might spoil things.
I intend to send you a copy of the American paper here, I have a job for you on that if you want but don't know if I will let you take it, I know too much about the editor. The typesetters are all Chinese who do not know a word of English, they set the type from the form of the letter. It results in some funny mistakes.
The candlesticks I have not sent yet as it is a lot of trouble but will do so when I have time. The trunks I will have sent from Great Falls to Grass Valley.
P.S. When you come you will be called, Ssu tai tai. I am Ssu Shen shi or elder brother Ssu. The elder brother being a title of respect.